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Charles Lindsey

Ascension

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This is old. Very old. I wrote it when BC3K was transitioning to BCM and Derek was going to put a VTOL bay in the new MKIII. It was salvaged from somewhere so there is one glaring omission. It just sort of truncates and picks back up.

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Ascension: Details

Summons

Commander Chavik looked up from the comm console. What could be so important that I have to travel to Rattler's Den with all speed? Looking back he punched another button. "Mr.Brom, ready the Phoenix."

"Aye, sir" came the reply.

Rising, Geryg Chavik looked around his quarters. Small but sufficient. Most of the space at a starbase being devoted to just that, storage. I had better pack my things, he thought to himself. He packed his clothes, placed them into a serving droid and sent it off to report to Shuttle Craft 1. It scurried away down the service tube at a speed that would have been unsafe for any human habitated hallway and one that would ensure that it would arrive before he did. Entering a few last minute messages to his staff telling them to stop and return immediately Chavik headed towards the shuttle that would take him to Phoenix. As Chavik walked down the hall his thoughts turned again to the message. Only one way to find out. This trading run will have to be cut short.

Into the Lair

Emerging from the shuttle, Chavik turned around and thanked the pilot for the ride. "See that service droid gets to my quarters before you leave." Turning again, Chavik began walking across the shuttle launch bay on his way to the bridge. Thru the Aft corridor, up the Turboshaft, then the long walk down Deck 1 corridor Chavik made his journey in silent thought.

Arriving on the bridge, his whole crew snapped to attention. Chavik saluted them in return and strapped himself into his station. Slipping the VR Console on, he sent his command chair to its normal resting place.

"Navigation Officer Harrison, Plot a course to the Den. It appears I've been summoned," said Chavik.

Edwin Harrison asked, "Any idea why sir?"

"None at all, just a message coded urgent that said to return to Rattler's Den at best possible speed. So the sooner you plot that course the sooner Mr. Brom can get us underway."

"Yes sir, Jump parameters computed," replied Harrison.

And almost simultaneously Flight Officer Brom added, "Configuring Jump Profile." Waiting a second for the profile to set he added, "Inputting Navigation Coordinates." Followed by "Engaging HyperDrive Profile," a moment later.

Commander Chavik watched as the Jump anomaly formed, waiting for the hole to appear in Hyperspace that the ship's engines would use to slip through the hole in space. Things took on an unreal aspect there. Though he knew they couldn't collide, Chavik still gave a start when it appeared they flew through the moon he was trading on.

Rattler's Den

As the last anomaly closed, Rattler's Den sprang onto the scanner along with a few other ships. So I'm not the only one who has received a summons Chavik thought to himself. Well, I'll have the details soon enough. "Mr. King, please target Rattler's Den," said Chavik addressing his Tactical officer. "Mr. Brom, one last jump ought to bring us right to the door."

"Aye Sir," replied Brom.

The vocal status reports of the final jump barely registered as Chavik cycled through the target list. I see the Nevermore, the Dark Sabre, the Vengeance, and the Guardian. Quite a shindig we have going on here. Wonder what we got going on? And I sure as hell hope there's a docking bay left for me, Chavik thought glumly to himself.

As the Phoenix docked with Rattler's Den, Commander Chavik lowered his command chair to the deck and unstrapped himself. "Mr. Brom you have the bridge" said Chavik as he climbed out of the command chair. Before pulling off his VR Console he instructed Mother to Run a systems check. Setting the VR console into the command chair, he turned and walked away from the bridge.

As soon as Chavik's presence was logged into the station's systems he heard the announcement over the station's PA system. "Commander Chavik, please report to Rattler's office." It repeated itself several times time before Chavik could find the callbox on the wall; letting the system know he had received the message.

Striding down the corridors of the Den, Chavik went straight to Rattler's office. Scanned by the security door he heard a soft beep inside. "Enter," issues from the callbox. The door swooshed open and before Chavik could take two steps Rattler looked up from his paperwork and his mouth split into a grin. "Chav! How's it going? How is Sanctuary?"

Offering a salute and a small grin himself Chavik said, "The store is fine, we are actually making a good bit of money trading. Enough to cover our costs and keep a good bit for ourselves to boot." Laughing out loud Chavik continues, "Another year will see this a real money maker."

"I've been watching that yes," said Rattler. "I'm proud of that. Thanks for your efforts. They could not have come at a better time. And hopefully they will last quite a while."

"You know they will sir," said Chavik.

"I was talking about the profits Storekeeper. A second source of revenue for the Insurgents was needed. But I'm glad to hear your loyalty spoken aloud."

"Thank you sir, but if I may ask I don't think I was asked here for small talk. As good as it is to catch up on things in person may I ask why I was summoned? I saw to many ships that have upper rank commanders to believe this is one big tea party," said Chavik, turning the conversation to a more serious note and the one he had been worrying about the whole time.

"You're right Commander Chavik, you are too right." said Rattler. "Please have a seat." Rattler returns to his seat as Chavik pulled up a chair. "I've had reports of something big going down at Galcom. Shipping reports indicate massive amounts of highly technical equipment being shipped to Galcom over the past several months. More than the usual components of a standard battle cruiser."

"Intelligence reports also point to something big. Those reports indicate ship movement back to Galcom. Plenty of ship movement. These movements are consistent with the Christening of a new ship. Even Diplomats are congregating around Galcom. Traders too. This is not a normal Christening."

"The technical shipments interest me greatly. This must be some new prototype and everyone wants a look at it. Including me. And you, I want you to secure passage to Galcom and record the Christening of this new ship. We have some newly acquired freighters that Galcom is not aware of. Use one of those and get a good close look at that ship."

"But sir," said Chavik, "I'm needed at Sanctuary. We have so much to catalog and get into inventory. There is a ton of work to do."

"And it's exactly those skills I want Chav," replied Rattler, "I want to know everything I can about that ship down to the new light bulbs they installed. Sanctuary can run fine for a few days. I'll have a message sent to the store that you'll be gone a while on special assignment. Is Commander Renlo still your Second Chavik?"

Blinking, Chavik emerged from thought, "Yes, Commander Renlo is still my second in command. He'll do fine for a couple of days, even weeks if need be. But I'd like to secure my own passage, I know someone who would be extremely interested in seeing this new ship of yours and would probably trade the info for a ride. Commander Pallo of the Cornucopia, a trader I worked on before joining Galcom. He might like to know what to avoid in the future."

"That's fine Chav, so long as you are out of here by tomorrow. Dismissed," said Rattler.

"Yes Sir," said Chavik. He saluted and left.

Hitching a Ride

As Chavik left Rattler's office he headed for the communication center. Corridor after corridor he winds his way through the station. Arriving he spots a cute young officer busily working at her station. "Miss Solia is it?" Chavik said flashing a grin, "Would you please put out a tracer for Commander Pallo of the Cornucopia? I'll register back when I find a room."

"Yes Sir," she said returning the smile, "Should I keep a channel open?"

"On standby if you would, I have some matters to discuss with him," replied Chavik.

"Very well Sir," Miss Solia said, adding another smile.

Chavik left the Communication center and headed for the habitation area, humming quietly to himself after his encounter with Miss Solia. Getting a room proved no trouble. As Chavik settled himself in he turned on the comm panel and registered with the Communication center. Another quick search located the Phoenix where he left ordered for his luggage to be transferred to his room, ordered Mr. Brom to return the Phoenix to Sanctuary, and left orders for Commander Renlo in his absence.

By now hungry, Chavik headed to the Mezzanine area of the Station. Jostled by the many personnel and workers he looked around and saw a familiar site. The Gammulan Lounge, a chain of restaurants that had sprung up. Chavik pondered the founder's name a bit. Ross, that was it, he thought to himself. Poking a bit of fun at the newest threat in the galaxy, they had done very well lately. Quickly entering Chavik takes a seat. Scanning the menu he ordered a glass of Empirian Ale and some Nyashah. A bird from half a galaxy away and it still tastes like chicken, he thought, grinning.

Finishing his meal, Chavik decided to return to his room and check messages. To his surprise he had a message waiting. He pulled it up and heard Miss Solia's voice, "Commander Chavik, we have located the Cornucopia, if you would like to be connected please log into the communication center again."

Chavik logged in and after a small pause Miss Solia's face appeared. "Commander Chavik, the tracer has found the Terran/Trader Cornucopia; would you like to be patched through?"

"Yes, please. Thank you Miss Solia," Chavik said.

The image morphed into the face of a stern looking older gentleman, Stern until a twinkle caught his eye. "Who was that?" asked Commander Pallo. "Quite a surprise on opening up a double encoded message."

Chavik laughed, "That is Miss Solia, one of the communication officers here at Rattler's Den. Very pretty young woman, and very intelligent so it seems. I had not asked her to put the encoding on the message. How's it been going Commander Pallo?"

"Fine, fine," said Commander Pallo, "but you've been out of my service for a while now Geryg. Please call me Curtis. I owe you that."

"You don't owe a thing," said Chavik, "I wouldn't be half so good at my job if you hadn't taught me a few things about trading."

"Bah, that was nothing, though I seem to remember that Bloody big cruiser of yours being around at the right moment a time or two. Maybe it's her I owe. I'll give her a kiss next time I see her."

"Well hopefully that will be soon. I have a favor to ask Curtis."

"It's yours if I can, you know that."

"We've received reports of something going on at Galcom and I've been assigned to record the event. I need to hitch a ride if you're headed that way," said Chavik.

"Do you mean the unveiling of the new Battlecruiser? I wouldn't miss it for the whole quadrant," Curtis said.

With a stunned look on his face Chavik asked, "How did you know about that?"

Curtis grinned widely and responded, "Son, the rumor mill can outrun that cruiser of yours even if it had twin hyperdrives. Rumors have been floating around for weeks and ghosts of those rumors for months. I'd love to see it and you are most certainly welcome as a passenger. I do recommend you wear civvies though. Wouldn't do to be caught wearing an Insurgent uniform if we happen to be searched by an Earthcom ship now would it? And they are the reason I want to see this thing, 'cause as soon as Galom is fitted with this thing; Earthcom will be next. I want to see what I'll be inconspicuously trying to avoid if I can. Just let me finish this trade run and get the illegals off. How does 07:00 tomorrow sound?"

"That's fine, I'll be ready," said Chavik, still slightly stunned.

Meeting

After his conversation with Curtis, Geryg Chavik simply went to bed. Sleep was a long time coming. Thoughts about the mission and his old Commander rang in his head. He finally decided to take the path he always had; that of taking doggedness and seeing things through, Chavik finally fell to sleep.

Chavik awoke early and again headed to the Gammulan Lounge. A sound breakfast seemed like a good idea especially since the lack of sleep would have him tired again in no time. He almost choked on his coffee when Curtis Pallo came strolling in and sat at his table. "Curtis! I wasn't expecting you for another hour yet. Hope I didn't cause you to lose any money closing trading like that."

"Oh no I was almost done anyway," said Curtis. "Loading went more quickly than I thought too. I did find something that will come in quite useful to both of us," finished Curtis, grinning.

"What would that be, a cloak for a transport?"

"No, that will be for another day if I can swing it. Military apps are extremely hard to come by. But this will be almost as good," said Curtis. Then, leaning close he said, "I got a Droidan scanner." Leaning back again he crossed his hands over his middle and watched Chavik's reaction. The twinkle again present in his eye.

Chavik simply stared at Curtis with his coffee almost to his open mouth. Setting it down, he also leaned back and watched Curtis watch him. The staring match went on for long moments when Chavik suddenly laughed. He gained a few stares from the patrons at the other tables before he calmed down and told Curtis, "My, that will come in handy, quite a coup that, apparently you didn't teach me everything."

"Bah," said Curtis, "you know everything I do but sometimes it's who you know as well. But enough of that, are you ready to go? I'm hungry; I'll grab a bite while you finish getting ready. Just send your things to the Cornucopia. I have your cabin ready and someone will see to your things."

Leaving Commander Pallo to his meal Chavik went to his quarters and repacked. Not much needed to be done, just yesterday's clothes and last night's sleepwear. Calling a droid he sent his luggage to the Cornucopia. Accessing the comm panel one more time he contacted Miss Solia, "Miss Solia, I'll be on the Cornucopia for a while. Would you please forward any messages for me back to Sanctuary? Oh, and one more thing, thank you for your fine assistance yesterday."

"Oh that was no problem Sir, I was just doing my job and we are trained to be discreet in important matters. If you need anything else let me know," she said.

I'll look you up when we get back, and thank you again." Closing the connection Chavik settled his bill through the panel and headed towards the Gammulan Lounge one last time. Meeting Curtis as he was finishing his meal they headed towards the Cornucopia.

Journey

Entering the Cornucopia Chavik looked around. "It's good to be back, she hasn't changed much,ÔÇØ he said. "I hope she's in good shape as always."

"Well she is getting older, not everything is as fine as when you left, but she's still quite serviceable and has got a lot of life left in her. Isn't that right Mother Goose?" said Curtis, looking vaguely into the air.

"If you say so Pallo," a voice said from mid-air, "several systems could use service though, and that new scanner is giving me fits. It won't quite interface."

"Keep working on it, I want at least 80% efficiency, we won't be going into battle with it but I would like to know what's out there," said Curtis.

"Yes sir, I will keep trying," Mother Goose said, an almost audible sigh hanging in the air.

"Sounds like she's still upset you gave her that name," said Chavik.

"Bah, she shouldn't have found those ancient nursery rhymes for my daughter then. I had to listen to those for years before she outgrew them. She really is a fine central computer though. I got lucky with her. She's progressed quite a bit since you left. Are you ready to get underway? Mother Goose, make sure Geryg's luggage gets transferred to his quarters. Mr. Sati, please launch a plot a course to Galcom."

"Would you like a drink? We have time for that. The Cornucopia's not as fast as that cruiser of yours but we'll be there shortly," said Curtis.

"Yes some coffee would be good, it's still a bit early," Chavik said.

Getting two cups of coffee from the replicator unit, Curtis handed one to Chavik and sat back down in his command chair. Chavik took a seat at an empty console and waited while the autopilot smoothly launched the Cornucopia away from Rattler's Den. Once a safe distance away, the autopilot turned itself off and the system waited for more input. Suddenly the ship gave some barely perceptible lurches, the view in the HUD shifting crazily.

"Mr. Sati, would you please assign a flight path before you turn on the autopilot? How many times have I told you to read that manual? Would you like to be staring at the outside of an airlock without benefit of a space suit?" he turned to Chavik; Curtis whispered "Sister's cousin, he needed a job and I needed a deck hand. He's a good kid but sometimes I want to throttle him."

"That's ok, I had my newbie time as well," Chavik said.

"Bah, you had training, this kid is green as they come and I've trained him myself. It's almost but not quite as bad as doing it all alone," said Curtis. "Still, he is a help on trade runs."

"If he remembers half of what you teach him he'll do very well one day," said Chavik, settling back into his chair.

Curtis Pallo settled back into his command chair and watched Mr. Sati re-enter the commands. This time the ship turned smoothly, slowly orienting itself on the jumpgate that would begin their journey.

Preparation

As the last jumpgate closed the ship once again returned to Direct mode. "Mr. Sati, target that debris field, I want to park there for a bit before we continue." Without waiting for a reply, he turned to Chavik and said, "Well, perhaps not as smooth as that cruiser of yours but she does pretty well."

"I've been listening to the engines on the way something is not quite right. When was the last time you had maintenance?" said Chavik.

"Well, it's been a while, that chair you sat in was the engineer's. I haven't had one these past few months. Good ones are hard to find. Especially with Galcom snatching up all the good ones. They have really been pushing recruitment. Anyone halfway decent is practically shoved into the academy," said Curtis.

"Yes I know," said Chavik, a small grimace formed on his face,ÔÇØ if the UFN hadn't been so deadset on discovering the known universe they might not be in the mess they are in. Way too many resources were given over to research and development. They had to play with fire and then they got burned. We all got burned. They drew the attention of those savages at the worst possible time."

"What's done is done, it's too late to cry over it now," said Curtis, "let's hope they can make the best of it. I really don't want to meet any of them face to face."

"Neither do I, but you soon will if you don't get those engines looked at. I'll take a look if you don't mind."

"Now Geryg, I didn't bring you along as a mechanic. You are a guest. I'll get those engines looked at just as soon as this is over with," Curtis said.

"Still, I'd like to take a look. Something really isn't right," said Chavik.

"If you insist I can't stop you," said Curtis, shaking his head. "Mother Goose, please send a transport buggy to the fore corridor please."

"Thanks," Chavik said grinning, "you keep calling the Phoenix big but this is one of the biggest ships around. Why this command module is as big as the Phoenix herself. I wish she was armed though; I don't like being this close to Galcom without even one laser."

"That will come later," said Curtis. "I have upgraded the shields. Some arms are next. Things are getting a bit hairy lately and I wouldn't mind some defenses. Either that or buy an armed transport. I like the Jenstars. I would just have to figure out how to transfer Mother Goose. We've grown used to each other," Curtis said, almost blushing.

"Ahh, good we're here. Mother Goose, AI autopilot please, navigational thrusters only. Hold this position."

"Yes sir, Commander Pallo. Plus I have taken the liberty of sending some tools and scanners to the engine room, along with a parts manifest and inventory," said the voice from midair, this time with a touch of anticipation, almost eagerness.

Chavik laughed, "Yes Mother, we'll see what we can do to make you feel a little better. And Mr. Sati you are welcome to come along too. I might need another pair of hands."

Leaving the bridge the three of them walked thru the fore corridor, past the computer rooms, and into the main corridor. As large as any grand hall in an ancient castle the main corridor was constructed to allow internal transfers of items between the cargo holds. While appearing to be only three main holds from an outward appearance, there were actually six primary holds split by this main corridor with smaller holds above and below the main corridor. This also allowed atmospheric integrity to be held from the command module in the front to the engine rooms in the rear should there be damage to any one of the pods.

Climbing into the transport buggy, Curtis took the driver's seat, turned the buggy around, and headed towards the engine room. Even at a little over two kilometers the trip did not take long. Still, Chavik had time to look over the ship that was his first assignment. Not much had changed. The loader/walkers were still stored in their cubbyholes alongside the regular small transport droids that so often carried his luggage. Grease spots from leaky hydraulics indicated the need for maintenance and Curtis's lack of a good crew.

Arriving at the engine module of the Cornucopia, the three of them got off the buggy and went inside. Thankfully the ship had been designed with the controls and support parts towards the front of the room with the actual engines taking up the rear part. A fine layer of dust had settled over the consoles. Being the transport she was and subject to being opened to myriad atmospheres, no filtration system in existence could filter out everything. But even this fine layer showed the lack of maintenance.

"Curtis, when was the last time you were in here?" Chavik asked, amazed at the obvious lack of attention.

Curtis bowed his head and almost mumbled, "Well I told you it's been some months since I had a systems engineer. I suppose about that long. Times are getting hard. That Droidan scanner took the last of my credit. I hope it will pay off and then I can start upward again. You are looking at the crew."

"Well let's get started then. As you said what's done is done. Time to move on." Chavik looked around for the droid Mother Goose had sent. Spying it in a corner he opened it up and t maintenance warnings."

"Everyone did everything they could considering the circumstances." Chavik said. Scanning the parts inventory produced nothing. "You don't have the parts to get this thing back into 100% service but I think I can get you 90%. Mr.Sati, grab the rest of those tools and letÔÇÖs take a look at that heat exchanger."

Doing as ordered, Mr. Sati followed Chavik deeper into the ship with Curtis tagging along at the last. Arriving at the heat exchanger they almost gasped at the heat emanating from it. Checking the manual gauge Chavik noticed the needle almost in the red. "This is not real good either," said Chavik. "Let's see what a manual flush will do. Let me trip these breakers here and Mr. Sati you pull that plunger several times. Curtis you may need to help." They waited for the solenoids to shut off and the heat exchanger to shut down. When all was quiet the needle started slowly moving upwards.

"OK we don't have much time, this system will overheat shortly and then we'll be out engines entirely. Get that plunger moving." Straining, Curtis and Mr. Sati started moving the plunger. It moved slowly at first then picked up speed; the charger it was attached to starting to whine as the magneto picked up energy. Finally a relay clicked and the unit gave a shudder as the internal pathways changed to allow the fluid to go thru the secondary filter. Flipping another breaker the unit started up again, backwashing the fluid and stopping the needle's rise momentarily.

"We'll only have time for one complete exchange; I don't want that heat going critical. It's dangerous enough as it is," said Chavik, watching the gauge intently. Several minutes passed before Chavik said, "OK that should do it, and it's all I want to risk anyway. Mr. Sati the plunger again if you please?" This time the plunger moved easily. Once the system had returned to original configuration Chavik threw the breakers and brought the system back online. He was rewarded by an immediate downward fall of the needle. "Well she seems to be working better now. It will still take several hours for it to become stabilized again. We'll check on it then."

Wiping the sweat away Chavik turned and said, "Let's get out of this heat and go check on that power control unit." Leaving the depths of the ship the three of them worked their way back to the engine control room. Once there, Chavik located the access panel and pulled it off. "Mr. Sati, please come over here and watch. I'm going to teach you a little bit about field repair. The scanner will tell you what's wrong. If you can't read it Mother Goose can. This cutter will remove parts and chips and the welder can put it all back together."

Chavik removed the power control unit. "Now normally this is a replacement item but we don't have that luxury, cutter please," Chavik said, becoming absorbed in the work. "Curtis, please open that bottom left locker to the right of the door and see if my old stash is still there. Bring them over here and you watch too. Just pop these factory welds off and take the cover off. Scan the interior and see what you got going on," Chavik said, frowning. "Hmmm, four chips, let me see those Curtis. Now match them up as best you can, Mother can help here too till you know more of what you are doing. Adjust your cutter to remove the chips and use the welder to put them back in. Put the top back on and put the unit back in." Chavik performed these actions while he spoke and then stood with a groan. "Now simply turn it on and check it out, Mother Goose?"

"Engines scan at 92% and the power levels are 5% within normal," the central computer said.

"Good, much better than we had and it should rise a little more when we flush that heat reactor some more. Now let's go see what else we can get into," said Chavik.

Curtis interrupted, "Geryg it's almost lunch time. Let's say we leave off the mechanic lessons and go eat."

Looking at his watch Chavik said, "Yes, it is a bit late. What flavor nutripaks you got on hand?"

Curtis just grinned and walked out of the engine room and into the main corridor. Climbing into the transport buggy he motioned for the others to follow. Chavik and Mr. Sati jumped in and Curtis started the journey back to the command module.

They arrived at the fore corridor in short order and took a turboshaft to the lower levels of the command module which contained the crew quarters and galley. Upon entering the galley Curtis chose the nutripaks and passed them out. They ate quietly with only the occasional comment on the status of the ship. When they were done Curtis took up the empty trays and Chavik began talking with Mr. Sati about more field engineering tips. Curtis excused himself to the bridge mumbling something about reports.

Rising, Chavik said "Mr. Sati, are you ready to check out some more systems?"

"Sure," said Mr. Sati, "it's a hell of a lot more interesting than that damn manual."

Chavik cleaned up the rest of the dishes and said, "Well let's get started then. You do need to read that manual though. Flying by the seat of your pants is dangerous and apt to get you into trouble when you least expect it."

Assignment

Over the next several days Chavik and Mr. Sati repaired several systems while the Cornucopia remained parked near the debris field. Chavik gave Mr. Sati a few piloting lessons that he thought might come in handy. They also tried to help Mother Goose interface with the Droidan scanner more efficiently but could do nothing more than attach cables at her direction.

While flushing the heat exchanger one last time they heard Curtis come on the comm system, "Geryg, Mr. Sati, please come to the bridge I think we got something going on." Chavik flipped the breakers that would bring the heat exchanger back online and left the engine room with Mr. Sati in tow.

They arrived on the bridge and Curtis simply pointed at the Tacsan. Chavik let out a low whistle at the number of blips on the screen, "Do you think it's time to head that way? Looks like it's about to happen."

"Certainly does," Curtis agreed, "Mr. Sati, please target Galcom and bring us in."

Mr. Sati took his chair and started entering the commands that would bring them in. Chavik and Curtis took their seats also. The jump went smoothly and Mr. Sati slowly navigated them through the crowded space towards Galcom. "You're getting halfway decent Mr. Sati," said Curtis. "Those lesson's Geryg's been giving seem to be taking hold."

"He's a good kid Curtis and a quick study too. Give him some time and he'll out fly Galcom rookies," Chavik said.

Chavik cycled through the target list letting out another low whistle, "This is worse than the Den. There's the First Light, the Predicant, Shogun, Usagi, Instigator, Nemesis, Paladin, all the top dogs, but the Warmonger is missing so I think we have some time yet. Mother, how's that interface coming?"

"Ninety-two percent accurate with 85% availability of functions."

"Good," said Chavik from the engineering station, "ready for a test run? Please scan Galcom HQ and put the data on this screen." Chavik watched as the scan took shape. First came the technical data, shields, armor, integrity, and then the life forms and power levels. "Is that all it has? I can get that from the Cornucopia's scanners."

"No sir, please let me perform a deeper scan."

"By all means do." Chavik turned back to the screen and again watched. This time in amazement as the scan peeled away layer after layer of the stations schematics. Every hallway and room, every vent shaft, every conduit and pipe was shown in amazing detail. Chavik felt he could zoom down to the deck plate and see the anti-skid texture and even farther.

"Power levels?" Soft lines began to glow inside the image of the station. The largest being the reactor. "Transmissions?" Scores of data started rolling across the screen. More glows were added from the transmittal sites. One in particular caught Chavik's eye. "What's this one?" he said, tapping a glow where there should not have been any.

"Transmission source sir," Mother Goose reported.

"I can see that," said Chavik, mentally kicking himself for asking such a literal question of a computer. "Where is it transmitting process the Warmonger appeared. If a hush could have been heard in space it was. All transmissions stopped as everyone waited for the announcement.

Chavik listened with half an ear to the announcement. Proud accomplishments and hopes for the future were heard with a touch of cynicism. The display of the vessel that would help in the upcoming struggles was seen as a cover-up for the UFN's own greedy thirst for knowledge. Not wanting his views to cloud his judgment Chavik tuned the speech out. What was done was done. It was time to move forward.

The speech was over shortly and then the ship, code named Ascension according to the announcement, was launched. She somehow appeared a little sleeker; he couldn't put his finger on it. Maybe it was the fresh paint. Chavik watched the flare that would christen her. He always had liked that effect. Every ship in the sector started blinking running lights in a sort of visual applause.

Another announcement began but Chavik had no time to listen. "Mother, scan that ship, this is what we are here for. Go ahead and do a deep scan, I want to see the internals."

Again Chavik watched as this time the ship was scanned and layers were peeled away. "Scan everything, weapons, engines, comms, I want to know everything."

"Yes sir," replied Mother, "putting it on your screen now."

Chavik concentrated on the engineering display. Curtis and Mr. Sati had sidled up behind him and were watching also. Weapons showed overall improvement, the PTA especially. Missiles weren't that far behind. Computer link-ups were 40% more efficient. Scanning was better and the Tacops display showed a wealth of improvements. Chavik was astounded.

"Mother, save all these files into a secure database and generate a datapad."

"Yes sir. I have identified the receptor of the internal transmissions. They are no longer internal. They are being sent towards Ascension. She is receiving them."

"Where?" One of the glows in the schematic started slowly pulsing. "Scan that please."

"While not identical it has many of the same components as the source in Galcom HQ. It is linked to the Weapons, Tactical, and Navigation computers whose CPUÔÇÖs identify themselves as System 2."

"A link up with Galcom? Are they to have remote controlled Battle Cruisers now? I've seen enough. Time to get these files to Rattler. Mr. Sati please lay in a course for Rattler's Den."

"Hold on Geryg," Curtis interrupted, "that would be a little suspicious if we went barreling off. We need to stick around awhile and ohh and ahh over this thing like the yokels. Look at the scanner, Earthcom has already detained some of the early departures. We aren't in that bloody big cruiser of yours to go blasting our way out."

"You're right Curtis," said Chavik. "We might as well use this time to our advantage. Mother Goose, can you multi-task and scan Galcom some more?"

"Yes sir, it is within the capabilities of the droidan scanner to scan up to ten ships at least. My current link allows me four. I am putting it on screen now," replied Mother Goose.

Chavik watched as Ascension was replaced with Galcom. "Scan the weapons system. Let's see what they been up to. Some of that technology had to have filtered over to the station's systems also. Mother, see if you can tap into Galcom's systems and get a current inventory."

"Yes sir," said Mother Goose.

It was only a second before scores of data started scrolling down the screen. Years of reading inventory reports had gotten Chavik used to such large amounts of data. He watched the report flow by and noticed that the station's turrets had seen some improvement. That made sense. They used the same logic the Battlecruiser turrets did. What shocked him were the four new classes of missiles. He stopped the data flow and tapped the screen. "Mother, are these missiles on board the Ascension?"

"No sir."

"Please scan them directly and put the info on the screen in another window." A small window appeared and Chavik started reading the specs. ATL/V tracking logic on all four classes. The blast energy varied but they were all far more powerful than Vagrants. Lock times varied slightly also but they were a deadly addition to the station's arsenal. "Rattler will surely be interested in this. This is totally amazing. A lot more than I bargained for. They have revamped the entire weapons system. Our boys have their work cut out for them. Mother, continue scanning and save that data in another datapad. One for Ascension and one for Galcom."

"There is nothing to do now but wait. I say we stop for lunch and let Mother continue scanning. What do you say Curtis?" Chavik asked.

"Sounds good to me. Let some of those ships clear out of here and keep Earthcom occupied," said Curtis.

As Mother Goose continued scanning they headed towards the galley for a well deserved break and meal.

Lunch went quietly as they thought about what they had seen and learned. Chavik did little more than pick at his food wondering about the dreadnought Galcom had built. "Don't worry too much about it Geryg. It will still be the same people inside those ships. I watched you close when you served here. You'll do all right," said Curtis.

"That may be true for you Curtis. I watched you too. That silver tongue of yours can get you out of many scrapes when you are being questioned in person but I don't think I'll have the chance to answer to those guns," replied Chavik. "I'm going to see how the departures are going."

Chavik walked back up to the bridge and checked Tacops. Many of the diplomats were waiting for docking bays. No doubt to get a first hand tour of Ascension, he thought. What I wouldn't give to have a link to Mother and get on board that ship myself. Shoulders slumping slightly he looked at the rest of the ships. Most of the traders and shuttles were on their way out of the system. There were only a few hangers on left.

Chavik jumped as Curtis said from behind him, "I think now is our chance to leave. All of Earthcom is currently occupied and people are pouring out of the system. Mr. Sati, please target Rattler's Den."

Chavik nodded agreement as the ship slowly spun and lined up with the first gate that would take them home.

Homecoming

They had flown by several Earthcom ships but they were to busy to notice one banged up old trader ship. The running lights were blazing and clearly showed the ancient fruit basket painted on her hull. Mr. Sati even performed a unique maneuver Chavik thought he had been feeling. A quick burst of the retros, another a moment later from the rear VTOL lift thrusters and the old Cornucucopia performed a tail over nose somersault. Chavik gave him a withering look but Mr. Sati just grinned widely and even Curtis had a smirk on his face. The other traders that were stopped began flashing their lights in a form of applause and Mr. Sati did an old fashioned barrel roll thru the Jupiter jumpgate.

Chavik sighed and said, "Mother, finish correlating the data and login it please."

"Working sir," came the reply from midair.

With nothing to do himself Chavik settled back into the chair and watched Tacops. Several of the ships were leaving this route. The traders on Polaris would be interested in this as would the Raiders in Procyon so the space traffic was still fairly heavy on the way out of the system. Mr. Sati had learned well and stayed clear of all the ships clogging space.

The jump into Lennen cleared things up a little more as several ships broke off and targeted the Barnard's Star wormhole. A few science vessels and a couple more traders were headed in that direction. The scientists were Credians and the traders were multinational but Chavik suspected Rattler had hedged his bets. He would have too but they didn't have the resource's the Cornucopia did. A trader with years of experience and an AI with almost as much.

As if she were reading his thoughts Mother Goose spoke up, "Commander, power levels are fluctuating in the engines again."

"Compensate and keep me informed," said Chavik. At least we are out of Galcom space should we need a tow he thought.

Space around the Velari station was swarming with d 't do to get caught in crossfire if whoever caused the alert status decided to come back for another try.

They slid threw the Polaris1 jumpgate and all hell broke loose. They immediately started taking damage to the shields. Chavik looked at the Tacops display again and saw that someone had mined the jumpgate. The other ships that were following them were getting hit too. "Afterburners Mr. Sati! LetÔÇÖs get clear of these mines," said Chavik. The engines on the old trader groaned and rumbled discontentedly as they began pushing the Cornucopia clear of the mines.

"Power levels are extremely dangerous," reported Mother goose.

Chavik zoomed in on Centron and cursed. Raiders were making a play for Centron. While a slightly stronger station with two additional turrets the ships compliment was no where as good as Velari's. Several raider ships broke loose and targeted the transports that had just arrived in system. The Cornucopia was not spared. Two fighters jumped in and began where the mines had left off. "Mr. Sati get those shields back up!" yelled Chavik.

"I'll do it, you just fly. Keep them off of us," said Curtis as he jumped over to the console.

"Do we have hyperdrive yet?" asked Chavik.

"No sir, not yet," replied Mr. Sati as he put the Cornucopia through evasive maneuvers.

"Mother, more power to the shields," said Chavik.

"No power units available," said Mother Goose.

Chavik thought furiously, LRT-10's just didn't have much power to spare. They were designed for hauling cargo and didn't have the massive reactors Battlecruisers needed to power multiple systems. "Mother, open all hatches along the main corridor and cut life support. Transfer power to the shields." He looked at Mr. Sati and Curtis and explained. "This old tub has enough air for a week. It may get a little chilly but I'd rather be cold than dead." They nodded and went back to work.

"Shields climbing," said Curtis when several shots caught them.

"Warning, shields are down," Mother Goose blared over the internal speakers. The next few shots started working on the hull.

"Hyperdrive available," said Mr. Sati.

"Target Lanix-V wormhole and jump. Let's get out of here." As they slid through hyperspace Chavik checked Tacops again and cursed a second time. All the other ships had surrendered. They were the only ones running and stuck out like a sore thumb. An observation not lost on the raiders either. Several more ships broke off from Centron and headed towards the wormhole. "Mr. Sati, retarget the Polaris2 jumpgate. Continue evasive maneuvers."

The shields had recharged and Chavik ordered every light cut and every non-essential system shut down and the power transferred to the shields. It wasn't much but it got them a few more units. It took several seconds for the raiders to follow the Cornucopia. Much needed time to let the hyperdrive engines recharge once more. Mr. Sati continued to put the Cornucopia through evasive maneuvers. Some of them the ship shouldn't have been able to do. They were getting hit but with enough time in between shots to let the shields recharge.

"Geryg, I know you don't want caught but maybe its best we surrender. They have cut off both jumpgates and there is no way out," said Curtis.

"No!" said Chavik. "We ran too hard. I don't think they'll deal with us pleasantly. Mr. Sati, there is another way out of this system. As soon as we get the hyperdrive back again switch the target to flux seven. We'll go out the back door."

The hyperjump engines came on line and the ship slowed to a halt to allow Mother to make the necessary calculations for the jump. All the raiders save one jumped obviously intending to catch the Cornucopia on the way out of hyperspace. Mr. Sati quickly targeted flux seven. The jump anomaly began forming but not before the last raiders got in several good shot.

"Warning, Shields are down. Damage, damage. Shield integrity breached," said Mother as they started the trip thru hyperspace. "Cargo bay 1 damaged, cargo bay 2 damaged, cargo bay 3 damaged," she continued as they exited hyperspace.

"Mr. Sati, get us through that fluxfield," said Chavik over Mother's damage report.

"Engines are damaged," Mother Goose finished.

The three of them simply stared at one another. They were just outside the fluxfield. It would take some time for the other fighters to recharge but the straggler had caught on and was already jumping towards them. "Mr. Sati, that somersault you did in Earth space. Can you do it again and get us thru that fluxfield?"

"I can try sir; VTOL thrusters are fine," replied Mr. Sati.

"Try or die, son," said Curtis.

Mr. Sati nodded and bent over the databoard. The rears thrusters burst into life and brought the Cornucopia parallel to the flux field. Then the fore thrusters came online to maintain that and together they began pushing the Cornucopia towards the wormhole. The lone fighter emerged from hyperspace some distance away and began to burn towards them. He saw he was not going to catch them so he launched a volley of missiles instead. They left the fighter and began coming towards the Cornucopia at over six times the fighters speed.

Mr. Sati maintained minor course corrections. He was hard put to maintain a course with a system never meant for space travel. They slid onto the wormhole just as the first missile reached them but they had already begun phasing. The missile went right through them and disappeared as did the raider. When the wrenching was over everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Curtis slapped Mr. Sati on the back and Chavik went over and shook his hand.

"Verifying location," said Mother, "Credian Quadrant, Darain system."

"One jump from home, if we can get those engines fixed. Shall we, Mr. Sati?" said Chavik as he headed towards the engine room.

Report

Rattler was waiting for them in the docking bay. The look on his face was one that meant he had a ton of questions. The first of which was why they had come out of the Darain jumpgate instead of Herin.

Chavik spoke up before he could ask. "We had a bit of trouble sir. Had to use the backdoor."

Rattler did not look satisfied so Chavik simply shrugged and handed him the datapads. "There is one on Ascension and one on Galcom. It has seen some improvements too."

Rattler handed the datapads to a yeoman with instructions to take them straight to research. "Tell me about it Chavik. I'm still curious as to why you had to come in thru Darain. Let's do it over dinner. Bring your friend too."

"This is Commander Pallo of the Cornucopia whom I told you about and this is Mr. Sati. We owe both of them a large debt of gratitude. He had resources I hadn't thought of and we got his s s1.

Details

Dinner had gone well and Rattler had dismissed Chavik and company. Now he was at his desk reading the contents of the datapads. He knew the Ascension was a prototype but it would still be some time before the lab people could reproduce these systems. He just hoped they could catch up in time.

The End

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